Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The rewarding virtue of humility

It's commonplace today to see angry drivers giving away to road rage. People are getting triggered at pretty much anything that comes across as making them look less important. We are living in a world where people are self-centered, demanding, egotistic, easily offended, envious, and are often insecure about their position in the community. Many think that they deserve some sort of trophy, admiration, or approval from others, even without any achievements that call for such. The end result is that people are being constantly gripped by insecurity, fear, anger, rage, envy, sadness, and even depression.

At the root of many of these problems is the lack of humility. I've been wanting to write on this for a while, knowing that putting together my thoughts on this is not only going to benefit myself, but also others who are looking to develop this endearing quality. I will try to define humility and contrast it with pride. I will also highlight the strong relationship between humility and one's overall state of happiness. 

  • A humble person does not need constant admiration or approval from others. He is self-contained; his happiness is not dependent on how he is viewed by others. However, a proud person expects constant showers of praise. He likes to be the center of attention. It is like oxygen for him, he cannot live without it. He is insecure about his position or status.
  • A humble person is not easily offended, because a humble person has balanced self-esteem. Other people's opinions are irrelevant to his joy in life and have no bearing on his self-worth. In contrast, a proud person typically has either very low self-esteem or very high self-esteem. When pride is due to low self-esteem, to hide his insecurities, he tries to live in a fantasy world, where he is the center of attention and the world is revolving around him. When pride is due to very high self-esteem, he considers himself special, and therefore entitled to receive special treatment from others. 
  • A proud person thinks that he is more important, he knows everything, he is always correct, and that nobody is qualified to tell him that he is wrong. He judges others with a self-righteous attitude and a rigid standard of his own. Any remarks or actions of others that are considered as a threat to his imagined superiority trigger an instant negative emotional reaction and denial.
  • A proud person is often envious of others and believes that others must be envying him. Since a proud person bases his happiness on his status, popularity, fame, or position, he assumes that others must be evaluating success based on such things and therefore must be envying his supposed success. When he sees others doing better and leading a happy life, even without things he use to measure success, it makes him sad, jealous, and upset. So he tries to discredit and talk down others.
  • A proud person tries to punch beyond his weight by pursuing a high-end career, home, vehicles, or a highly sought out education not because he is capable or can afford it, but to showcase his alleged greatness. On the other hand, when humble people pursue those things, it is only because they can afford it, capable, and enjoy what they are doing, perhaps as a hobby. Humble people have nothing to prove to others. They clearly know what they are able to do but also what they are not able to do. 
  • A humble person recognizes that everything he has is given to him and is not a product of his own work. Whether it's physical beauty, appearance, intelligence, or talents, he recognizes that it is determined genetically and he didn't have any control over it. He may have been fortunate to be raised with good parents and background. He also recognizes that others may have inborn gifts in different ways, such as in music, arts, or imagination that he doesn't have, and are happy to see others doing good with their talents. 
  • A proud person dominates conversations and often brags, inflates his abilities, and boasts about his achievements. In his eyes, only his opinion should matter and he is the one and only awesome personality in the room. He is offended when others interrupt him, even when others do that with good intentions or out of excitement. In contrast, a humble person listens to more and talks less. He is mild-tempered and patient.
  • A proud person cannot stand any kind of joke about him in casual conversations. He takes it personally. However he may often make fun of others, but when others do the same to him, he is offended. 
  • A humble person is less insecure or anxious about the future. Because he doesn't care much what others are thinking about him; it doesn't matter if others are viewing him in high regard or not. So there are fewer things to worry about. Of course, that doesn't mean he is a jerk, he is considerate of others' feelings.
  • A humble person is neither ambitious nor materialistic. So he is not working sixteen hours a day to become the next richest man or celebrity. This gives him more time to focus on other things that give him joy, and less stress in life. He knows that life is short, and there are other rewarding pursuits to focus on. He is content and satisfied with his provisions.
  • A polite person is not necessarily humble. In some cultures, people naturally display politeness and deference as part of their etiquette and so appear to be unassuming on the outside, but it's not to be confused with humility. Their true color will come out sooner or later. A humble person respects others but doesn't insist or protest that he has a "right" to be respected in return. The absence of respect from others has no effect on a humble person's joy in life. Because of this reason, on the first impression, a humble person may be misunderstood as rude, pretentious, or even condescending, because he may treat others the way he himself is okay to be treated with; direct in approach without any mock humility, fake politeness, or flattery. 
  • A proud person is unwilling to do menial tasks and expects others to take care of him and comply with his wishes. He takes others for granted, never acknowledging others' good contributions in his life. He misuses and overreaches his authority, encroaching upon others' rights, responsibilities, or even possessions.
  • A humble person readily acknowledges his faults, apologizes, and won't hesitate to say "I am sorry" when needed. He knows that he is imperfect and makes mistakes. He is eager to make peace, even when he is on the right. When someone corrects him, he doesn't worry that by accepting the counsel he somehow becomes inferior to the person giving advice or to others. He considers others as superior to him in many ways. But others being better than him has nothing to do with his joy in life. In contrast, a proud person immediately gets into defensive mode. His inflated ego prevents him from making peace. He is bitter, he harbors resentment and hatred for those he had issues with. 
  • A proud person may criticize and humiliate others publicly for their mistakes just to show his power, intelligence, and control. But if anyone dares to do the same back to him, he attacks them personally, bullying and blaming others for his own mistakes. A humble person is patient and talks privately to the person if something needs to be addressed.
  • A proud person does not like to genuinely praise others for their talents. He doesn't believe that other people can be better than him. So he often stamps others down by saying things like, "he is alright" or "he is mediocre". Even if he does praise others, it's not genuine, it's done only to get praise back in return. In contrast, a humble person offers genuine praise and does not expect anything in return. 
  • A humble person does not hold rich ones, or celebrities, scientists, or those with positions of authority in adulation, undue respect, or awe. In other words, he does not worship them as demigods, or view them as superhumans or take their words as the ultimate authority on unrelated matters. He recognizes that their accomplishments in their respective fields are primarily due to the natural gifts they were bestowed with, whether it's talents, intelligence, beauty, or inherited wealth. They were fortunate to make good use of those gifts. All glory belongs to God who gave them such gifts. This insight prevents a humble person from showing favoritism to such people or becoming a sycophant of them; he treats everyone with impartiality.
  • A humble person has real friends, even if it is a few. Who would like to be hanging out with someone who is constantly bragging about oneself or one who is easily offended, throwing tantrums? But humble people are approachable and likable, easy to deal with so end up having real friends.
  • A humble person is also modest, he clearly knows his limitations. He knows exactly what he is capable of and is confident about it. But he also knows what he is not capable of. So he doesn't say "Yes" to any tasks people ask him to do. He does not put himself in an embarrassing situation where he is publicly humiliated for exaggerating his abilities. It also saves him from taking undue stress by working hard on things he is not good at just to impress others.
  • A proud person rebels against authority, establish law, and order. He thinks nobody should be or is above him. He stirs up the competition by knocking others down in organizations that he is a member of. He is determined to climb up the ladder. He covets others' positions and authority. He forgets that except for God, everyone else in the universe is under some form of authority and control. He fails to see that even in the secular world everyone is under the control of some authority or law; people are under government and courts' authority, children are under their parents' authority. Even more, one cannot violate the authority of laws of nature, such as the law of gravity. A humble person is wise enough to recognize this and his limitation. It is impossible for anybody to climb up the ladder beyond a certain point, and if let unleashed, there is no end to one's ambition. So a humble person is not having a rebellious or competitive spirit. He works within the boundaries of his freedom, and never thinks the boundary is too restrictive for his imagination or enjoyment in life.
  • A humble person is happy because he doesn't base happiness based on status, reputation or position. He has an inner joy that cannot be taken away even if he hits rock bottom with those things. His delight is in maintaining a good conscience, satisfying his intellectual needs, enjoying the fruitage of his labor, having proper recreation, and being helpful to others. Those things are a constant source of joy, which cannot be taken away and provides a baseline of happiness. Anything more, such as appreciation from others or being respected in the community only adds on top of that baseline, like icing on the cake. In other words, a humble person is happy irrespective of external factors. 
  • Finally, a humble person does not think he is truly humble or wise. He recognizes that it's an ongoing challenge and a learning process. He often reflects on what he did each day that may indicate an area that he needs to work on. He can recall various instances in life where he was prideful and regrets his conduct. From his standpoint, the more humble he is, the happier he is.
N.B: These are my personal reflections, so I could be wrong 🙂. I may revise this article when I have more thoughts on this. For the sake of making writing easy, I am using masculine pronouns, but it is applicable to both genders.

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